What is a Toxic Tort?
A toxic tort is a legal claim for harm caused by one’s exposure to a dangerous substance. Such dangerous substances may be a pesticide, chemical or pharmaceutical. Some substances and the ingredients they contain may lead to serious illness, and possibly death. There are instances in which chemicals believed to be safe are found to be toxic.
In other cases, substances known to be dangerous are accidently released into the air or groundwater.
Lawsuits arising from exposure to these materials and other chemical substances are known as toxic tort litigations. These litigations are brought on behalf of individuals or groups exposed to and harmed by these substances.
Toxic Tort Substances
Toxic tort claims often originate from commercial/occupational/home exposure, consumer products, and pharmaceutical medications.
Some toxic substances that have been shown to cause significant injury to people are:
- Asbestos: Known to cause lung cancer (mesothelioma) and restrictive lung disease
- Dry cleaning and other solvents: Known to cause brain damage and major organ damage
- Electro-magnetic fields from utility wires or major appliances: Suspected of causing cancer
- Industrial chemicals: Benzene, PCBs, heavy metals, mercury, and arsenic
- Lead-based paint; Known to cause brain damage, especially in children and lead poisoning
- Pesticides such as dioxin and DDT: Known to cause birth injuries
- Toxic landfill waste: Associated with leukemia and other syndromes
- Silicosis and Silica
- Welding Rods
- Various drugs and pharmaceuticals such as DES and tainted L-tryptophan
Toxic Tort Claims
In a toxic tort claim, the individual plaintiff generally alleges that exposure to some dangerous substance led to an injury or illness. In some cases, these claims are brought on behalf of a group of people in what is known as a class action lawsuit.
For example, when a group of workers alleges exposure to asbestos while on the job or when residents of a neighborhood allege that a pesticide—or pesticides—contaminated local groundwater.
Toxic tort claims typically arise due to occupational exposure in which industrial workers are exposed to toxins—at high levels for a short period of time or at lower levels over an extended period of time.
This type of toxic tort litigation includes lawsuits based on workers’ exposure to asbestos and benzene on the job, for example. Lawsuits may also be based on pharmaceutical drugs, when pharmaceutical drugs lead to unintended side effects. Examples of drugs that have been the subject of toxic tort litigation include the antidepressants Zoloft and Prozac.
Other lawsuits may be brought over exposure in the home when individuals breathe or ingest substances in their home, including toxic mold or over consumer products when people use products, such as pesticides, that lead to unintended illness.
Proving a Toxic Tort Claim
The determination of who to sue in a toxic tort case may be challenging as plaintiffs are often unaware who manufactured a dangerous product. For example, several pharmaceutical companies may manufacture a drug and, if a patient develops a significant illness years later, it may be difficult to determine which company manufactured the specific drug the patient consumed.
Another example occurs when residents who live in an industrial area allege an association between health problems and area airborne contaminants. However, residents may not be able to determine which local factory is responsible for the release of the contaminant.
Generally, plaintiffs sue various individuals and/or entities that may have any potential link to the dangerous substance, including manufacturers and distributors of chemicals, machines, devices that expose workers to chemicals, and equipment that failed to keep the plaintiff safe from chemicals; owners and lessors of premises where the plaintiff was exposed to toxic chemicals; or the companies that stored the chemicals.
The types of damages that are available to plaintiffs in toxic tort cases might include compensatory damages, punitive damages, injunctive relief, and attorney fees.
What plaintiffs must prove in a toxic tort case is dependent upon the applicable legal theories and specific state laws involved. Generally, however, a plaintiff must show that the subject substance was dangerous, the plaintiff was exposed to the substance, and the substance led to the plaintiff’s harm.
These last two elements are particularly essential when exposure to a toxic substance took place over years, even decades. Because of this and other issues, including that testimony from experts in the field are generally needed in toxic tort claims, and that various statutes of limitations may be involved, it is important to ensure representation by an attorney with extensive experience in toxic tort law.
The national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP has a decades long and successful reputation fighting for its clients’ rights over defective torts or substances that may lead to serious and life-altering injuries and, in some cases, death.
Help for Toxic Tort Claims
Claims involving toxic torts are typically not the sort of lawsuits in which an individual may effectively represent him/herself. The legal and scientific issues in these types of cases are generally complicated and sophisticated.
Retaining the services of a lawyer who specializes in toxic tort litigation or the precise toxin at issue is important, as is proving causation; managing stale evidence; relying on scientific evidence; and obtaining compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
Parker Waichman has decades of experience representing victims of consumers injured in toxic tort litigation.
Questions Concerning Toxic
The attorneys Parker Waichman have a long history of successfully fighting toxic tort cases for their clients. If you or someone you know has been injured or suffered losses that fall under toxic tort litigation, the firm offers legal consultations to individuals, business, and entities with questions about filing a lawsuit.
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